Sunday, March 8, 2009

Total Meal Time Makeover


You may have noticed the new addition to my sidebar for E-mealz and wondered what's the scoop. Every day about 3:30 (some times even later) I get hit with this "Oh, crap. What are we going to have for dinner" feeling. I then sift through my pantry trying to figure out if I have enough ingredients for any one recipe. I think this is why we tend to have the same stuff over and over and over again. We've had so many variations of chicken breasts and canned vegetables that I actually dread dinner.

E-mealz is a site I found while browsing Dave's site. What first caught my attention was the price... $1.25 sounded like a good deal to me. Then I noticed all the different meal plans they have. After some debate, I decided to give it a try. I've been trying to figure out the best way to provide a review and have decided to just say, "I LOVE IT!!!" I chose the Points (Weight Watchers) Family Plan for Wal-mart. I debated the Kroger option, but decided against it for a couple reasons. First of all, the meal options are based on the Kroger in their area. It doesn't match up with the Indiana ad that runs Thursday - Wednesday. If this is a plan you like, I think it runs a week ahead - i.e. the one they post on Sunday would start on Thursday for us - but I'm not sure. More importantly, I decided that losing weight is a bigger priority for me right now. The plan I chose seems to run about $75-$85 per week, but can easily be filled for less if you are a smart shopper. Here's what I like:

* It's cheap - I used the coupon code DAVE and got the first 3 months for $12.50 so it's less than $1.25 per week. They also try to keep the cost of groceries to a reasonable price. The store options will provide a specific price for that's week's groceries. I don't actually shop at Wal-mart (even though that's the plan I chose), but their prices are comparable to Meijer. A lot of thing on the menu so far I've either had already or buy in a different quantity than they say, so I'm not sure how close to their total I actually come. I would think you would probably need a grocery budget of $75-$100 a week if you make all 7 meals (plus the other 2 meals a day).
* It's easy - They have very easy recipes that can be described in a few lines. I also love that they provide the grocery list by category and with the corresponding meal number. This allows me to easily eliminate certain items on the grocery list if I decide not to make a specific meal (i.e. If I decide not to make meal #3, I just cross off the items that go with that meal.
* Variety - I have a tendency to make the same things over and over. I've tried so many new things that I REALLY like and am looking forward to trying even more. Last week one of the sides was baked onion rings. These were awesome. They gave us the taste of an old favorite without the deep fried points that go along with it.
* Prep time - Most of the meals seem to be able to be made in about 30 minutes to an hour. Each week they give a crock pot meal and one that uses convenience foods for nights when you have little to no time for meal prep. While I LOVE the crock pot meal, we tend to skip the latter. This also helps cut down on costs because I'm not buying pre-prepared processed meals. I read the meal option that I'm fixing about noon to make sure I allow enough time (or adjust my meal option for the day to match the amount of time I have).
* New ways of thinking - While following the week's plan, Tim and I realized that we were wasting our Points on things we didn't need. We quickly realized that we were full off of what they were providing. Some of the meals leave off all the high-Point carb. For instance, the mini-meatloaf was paired with a cheesy broccoli-cauliflower mix. Those two things were really filling. In the past I would have added rice or potatoes, but we found we really don't need them. We also found that eating grapes and strawberries together makes them really YUMMY!
* Low-Points - The meals seem to run about 7-8 points, on average. I don't think we've made any yet that are as high as the 10 points dinners we used to have.
* Quantity - We chose the family plan. This makes enough for 6 servings, so we usually have left overs. We either have the left overs for lunch or replace any meals we don't like with a left over night. Some times I cut the recipe in half, but it depends on what it is. I am actually finding that I need to eliminate at least 1 meal, even if I think we'll like it, or we'll never be able to eat it all.
* Better Quality - I think using this method will reduce the amount of quick, processed food that we'll be eating. This is a combination of having recipes on hand and not trying to throw together a quick, last minute meal.

One thing I would warn is that it seems weird when you actually get to log in and get your meal. I thought my computer wasn't working, but I think it's just the way the files show up. They keep 2 weeks posted at a time in case you forget to print one. This allowed me to have an extra week that I can pull from if I need a replacement meal. I still plan on shopping sales and stocking up on things when they are cheap - especially meat.

So far, Tim has seemed really pleased with every thing too. We haven't had a meal, yet, that we didn't like. I'll try to post my favorite meal or recipe of the week on Our Home (and More) page. Time to go review next week's menu!!!

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